Nothing Good is Ever Said in These Last Three Weeks

Oct 18, 2018 by

We have entered the worst period of every election cycle – the last three weeks before election day. This is the time that is designed for creating doubts, generating confusion, and taking the voter’s mind off what is really at stake.

For us, in Kansas, there is much at stake in this election. Fundamentally, this is about whether we continue to make progress on restoring the state budget and funding our schools or we turn back and embrace the failed economic policies of Sam Brownback once again.

You might think we are talking about the race for Governor – and we are – but it is so much more. In 2016 voters sent a wave of new Democratic and Moderate Republican legislators to the House and, working together, that coalition did marvelous work. They reversed the failed Brownback tax plan even delivering enough votes to override his veto. They voted to expand Medicaid and again the House delivered enough votes to override Brownback’s veto (sadly the Senate fell short). They delivered a new school finance formula modeled on the one Brownback’s allies repealed and while that formula is still considered somewhat inadequate in funding, it has been found to be structurally constitutional. And the House twice voted to restore due process protections for teachers that Brownback’s allies had stripped in 2014.

All of these important votes were accomplished not by the Democrats or the Moderate Republicans but by the Democrats and Moderate Republicans working as a coalition – as a team – to deliver results for the people of Kansas.

The political goal of KNEA and our Political Action Committee (KPAC) has been to preserve and increase the membership of that coalition. To that end, we promised legislators of both parties that if they stood strong for the issues we believe in, we would stand strong with them at election time.

Unfortunately, a number of our Moderate Republican friends lost their bid for re-election, falling in the primary to a conservative candidate allied with Americans for Prosperity, the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, and the remnants of the Brownback majority. This makes it critical now that we support and re-elect every member of the House Democratic Caucus and every remaining member of the Moderate Republican Caucus. And at the same time, we must help Democrats defeat some of the conservatives in those races where a moderate Republican does not exist. 

Simply put, we need more coalition seats. Trading coalition seats does not build our capacity to pass good legislation and defeat bad legislation. Trading seats is a zero-sum game.

We acknowledge that a Democrat who defeats a Moderate Republican is very likely to be a solid vote for good policy and school funding. But it does not strengthen the coalition’s ability to hold off the conservative agenda. The only way we build legislative strength is to defeat more Brownback/Kobach ideologues.

We also acknowledge that there is another alternative – electing a Democratic House majority; electing 63 Democrats. That would mean holding the 40 Democratic seats they now have and defeating another 23 Republicans. We have yet to meet anyone who believes that is possible in one election cycle.

So when KPAC considers recommending candidates, we do it with one thing in mind – how can we elect a pro-public education majority in the legislature. Not “how can we elect a Democratic majority.” Not “how can we elect a Moderate Republican majority.”How can we elect a pro-public education majority of legislators regardless of party? 

So in these last three weeks, voters are being bombarded by mail that has little to do with policy and everything to do with sowing doubt and confusion. It is mail filled with references to obscure votes alleged to prove a candidate is evil. It is mail about their personal lives or something once “liked” on Facebook. It is mail with a photo of the time they were in the same room as Nancy Pelosi or Kevin Yoder.

Here is what we suggest. Don’t read the mail. Throw it in the recycle bin, shred it, line your birdcage with it. Just don’t read it. Instead turn to organizations you trust. We hope that includes KNEA. But maybe it’s the Mainstream Coalition or Moms Demand Action. Maybe it’s the Fraternal Order of Police or the Kansas Organization of State Employees. But go to them and look at their candidate recommendations/endorsements. And then cast your vote for those candidates. You’ll be doing the right thing.

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MAGA Rally Saturday. What to do?

Oct 3, 2018 by

President Trump is coming to Topeka to hold one of his MAGA rallies in support of Kris Kobach for Governor and Steve Watkins for Congress in CD 2. We all know that Trump and Kobach have a unique friendship and Trump needs Watkins – an Alaskan renting a house a Kansas while his wife lives in their house in Massachusetts – to help keep the Congress in his hands. Polling shows both races to be very tight and Trump hopes to boost Kobach and Watkins over Laura Kelly and Paul Davis.

With Trump in Topeka and protests at his rallies becoming very popular, it might seem like a good idea to make a sign and show up in Topeka. But frankly, we don’t think it’s such a great idea. If you want to impact the political landscape in Kansas and in DC, you can show up to protest or you can take concrete action to see to it that Kobach does not become governor or that Watkins does not get sent to Washington. Or for that matter, just take direct action to keep the Kansas legislature moderate.  To help you with that effort, our KPAC (a group of educators who recommend candidates who have demonstrated a commitment to supporting public education and students) has published its recommendations and you can view them by clicking here.  Better yet, share the recommendations with friends, family, and neighbors as you encourage them to vote.

And so we offer you some alternative activities.

Educators for Laura Kelly

First, if you are in Wichita or Sedgwick County, you can join an “Educators for Laura Kelly” event. This event will be held on Saturday, October 6, from 1:00 to 2:30 pm at the United Teachers of Wichita office, 150 S. Ida Street in Wichita. Come to show Laura the love and find out more about how you can help her win. Click here for a link to their Facebook event. 

KDP Day of Action

Of course, we all can’t go to Wichita (or to Topeka for the circus). That’s why the Kansas Democratic Party is making Saturday, October 6, a Day of Action across the state. Already there are events in Garden City, Lawrence, Overland Park, Wichita, Pittsburg, Leavenworth, Topeka, Winfield, and Kansas City. These events are all opportunities to spend some time volunteering for Democratic candidates across the state. We expect more events and locations to be added. To find out information about a Day of Action event in your area, click here.

Contact your favorite candidate

Finally, your counter protest can be a call or email to your favorite candidate – Republican or Democrat – and ask what you can do to move that candidate to the win column. Candidates need phone bankers, door-to-door canvassers, parade walkers, and all kinds of other volunteers. Take the hours you planned to give to protesting a MAGA rally and donate those hours to your favorite candidate.

So to answer the initial question in this post, no, KNEA is not participating in any protests of the Trump MAGA rally for Kobach and Watkins. Instead, we plan to take actions to see to it that everyone on this list of KNEA/KPAC recommended candidates win in November.


Don’t forget, you can check your voter registration, register and apply for an early voting ballot at is the fastest, simplest way to register to vote in Kansas using just your touchscreen device.



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KNEA / KPAC Primary Election Candidate Recommendations

Jul 10, 2018 by

Click to view and download recommended candidates list.

In this edition of Under the Dome, we share with you our recommendations for the August primary elections. When you see them, you’ll probably be wondering about the race for Kansas Governor or the Congressional races.

Two of the congressional races are listed, but two are not and there is no recommendation in either the Republican or Democratic Gubernatorial races. There’s actually some good news at least for some of these races. So let me take this column to explain our thinking!

Gubernatorial Races

KNEA does not have a recommendation for the Democratic Primary. The reason is simple.

The Democratic candidates have completed and returned questionnaires to KNEA and no one candidate stood higher than the others on our issues. Every Democratic candidate for Governor is a strong supporter of our public schools, our students, and all our school employees.  Additionally, the two candidates who served in the Kansas Legislature – Senator Laura Kelly and former Representative Josh Svaty – both had excellent legislative voting records on issues of importance to KNEA.

The race would appear to be a tight one between Kelly and Svaty. Former Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer also enjoys significant support. Public schools, our students, and Kansas educators would be well-served by any of these candidates and we are hard-pressed to elevate one above the other.

We urge our Democratic members to look closely at all these candidates and consider their positions on public education as well as their individual positions on issues of importance to each of you personally.

And as you cast your ballot, consider yourself lucky to not have a bad choice when it comes to supporting public education.

As for the Republican Primary, it would seem that only one candidate has any interest in being considered by KNEA – Jim Barnett.

Barnett is the only Republican to return a questionnaire to KNEA and his questionnaire reflects general alignment with KNEA positions regarding public education. Barnett has also continued to reach out to teachers and KNEA members throughout his campaign – including contacting and meeting with KNEA local affiliates and UniServ Councils – seeking their input and sharing his perspectives. While his KNEA voting record as a State Senator was not stellar, he appears to have studied the issues more closely and adjusted his positions in his time out of the Legislature. Unfortunately, Barnett’s candidacy is an extreme longshot while Governor Colyer and Secretary of State Kobach go head to head for the nomination.

We know where Colyer and Kobach stand on some issues thanks to reports in the press. Here, for example, both the Colyer and Kobach campaigns express support for private school vouchers and tuition tax credits.

In speaking to the Wichita Pachyderm Club, Kobach again expressed strong support for vouchers, in addition to reductions in education spending and grading schools A through F. The Wichita Eagle opined on this back in May.

Republican educators need to understand that only Jim Barnett was willing to participate in our recommendation process. Colyer and Kobach have stated positions contrary to KNEA positions on a number of issues and we have no confirmable information on the positions of other Republican candidates. Jim Barnett submitted a questionnaire and has held a number of press conferences and press releases that indicate strong support for public education, children, and educators.

Click Here to view the recommended candidates list.

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A Busy Week Ahead and the De-evolution of Kansas

Feb 13, 2015 by

Slow Friday, Busy Week Ahead

It was deathly quiet under the dome today, but there is a full schedule coming up next week with bill hearings and possible action on a number of bills in committees.

As we reported yesterday, Senate Education still needs to finish up work on SB 60, the bill allowing homeschoolers and private school students to participate in public school sports and activities. Senator Vickie Schmidt still has one amendment to go.

On Wednesday, Senate Education will hold a hearing on SB 176, the bill to strip collective bargaining for teachers of mediation and fact finding and to limit negotiations to minimum salaries and supplemental contract pay.

The House Education Committee has a packed schedule including taking action on HB 2232, personal financial literacy as a graduation requirement; HB 2078, requiring school districts to adopt school safety and security plans; SB 2262, providing a compliance deadline and penalties for non-compliance with the student data privacy act; SB 2174, tax credits for low income students scholarship act amendments; and HB 2199, opt-in to sex ed programs.

They will have hearings early in the week on most of the bills above and will also be holding hearings on HB 2234, prohibiting college employees from using their titles when writing in the newspaper, and HB 2207, promoting ethnic studies.

There will be continuing discussions on KPERS issues but no bills are listed for debate as of today. The House Education Budget Committee will be making their recommendations of the Department of Education. The Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee will be hearing a bill that would prohibit policies that prohibit public employees from carrying concealed weapons at work providing they have a permit. The last time this came up, insurance companies announced that they would not provide liability insurance to school districts that allowed employees to carry guns.

Are we devolving?

Those among us lucky enough to have been youthful in the 1970’s will remember that the decade was kicked off with the shooting of 13 students by the National Guard on the campus of Kent State University in Ohio. Four students who observed the tragedy of that day formed a band called DEVO.

Devo was shorthand for “De-evolution.” The band members suggested that the campus shootings they had witnessed, were indicative of the de-evolution of society. They may have spoken 45 years too soon.

We have now spent 239 years allowing representative democracy to evolve but it seems that evolution is now turning. Are we really seeing in the Kansas legislature the de-evolution of democracy?

The last few years of “legislating” have been interesting in the way the process has devolved from the respectful sharing of ideas and seeking of compromise to better serve all the citizens of the state to a radical consolidation of power and the adoption of a “dissent is treason” attitude.

This year, anti-public school lobbyist Dave Trabert publicly opposed a bill because it was the result of a compromise. Compromise – to Trabert and his followers – is bad; tantamount to treason.

At one time we thought this had reached is apex when the Governor conned moderate Republican senators into supporting his reckless tax cuts and then actively campaigned to throw those same Republicans out of the Senate in the next election.

We were wrong.

Then last April, we thought the apex was the adoption of HB 2506. At that time the legislature in the wee hours of the morning cobbled together as much anti-education legislation as they could and crafted a jam-packed school finance bill that would begin to privatize public education and strip teachers of the right to a fair hearing on the grounds for a dismissal. These ideas had either failed to be adopted by the appropriate legislative committee (corporate tax credits) or had never been introduced as a bill or subject to a public hearing at all (the elimination of teacher due process).

We were wrong again.

Which leaves us wondering if this year will be the apex of the de-evolution of democracy in Kansas.

What have we seen so far this year?

  • The introduction of a bill to give heterosexual, non-smoking, teetotalling, non-working, church-going married couples preferential treatment if they wish to be foster parents.
  • A bill to turn non-partisan local elections into partisan, dark money political circuses. At the hearing on this bill, local opponents of the bill had driven hours to testify but the committee chairman (and bill sponsor) let the committee time be taken up by the proponents and suggested the opponents who could not stay over another night could just try to find a committee member in the hall.
  • Four education organizations representing school boards, superintendents, administrators, and teachers crafted a bill amending the Professional Negotiations Act at the urging of the legislature only to have their bill rejected by the House Education Committee in favor of radical changes proposed by a lobbyist with no experience as a teacher, administrator or school board member.
  • Hearings on marriage conducted by a committee chairman concerned about “the degeneration of the culture” featured invited speakers who agreed with the chairman and wound up with harsh words for single-parent families.
  • The reversal of policies that prohibit the termination of a LGBT state employees; protections that had been in place for seven years.
  • Hearings on constitutional amendments to end merit selection of Supreme Court justices, either turning them into political appointees or subjecting them to popular partisan elections.
  • A bill (which gets a hearing next week) that would prohibit college professors from using their titles when writing in a newspaper. There have been some college professors who have written columns critical of the Governor, the Legislature, and the income tax cuts.
  • A bill to criminalize K-12 teachers for the use of materials a parent might find objection with even when those materials are part of the district’s approved curriculum.

Okay, NOW this is starting to sound like an apex!





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Your Action Needed Now!

Feb 6, 2015 by

House Ed Committee to debate changes to PNA!

Take action now!

On Tuesday of next week, the House Education Committee is set to debate and possibly vote on HB 2034, the “minority report” bill changing collective bargaining for teachers.

This bill is opposed by KNEA, the Kansas Association of School Boards, United School Administrators/KS, and the Kansas School Superintendents Association.

The four educational organizations have offered a separate bill with suggested improvements to the Professional Negotiations Act that would make bargaining more efficient, more effective, and more focused.

Contact the members of the House Education Committee and urge them to reject HB 2034 and instead adopt the agreement offered by KNEA, KASB, USA/KS, and KSSA.

The members of the committee are listed below. Their names are linked to their email addresses.

Ron Highland

Jerry Lunn

Valdenia Winn

John Barker

Tony Barton

Sue Boldra

John Bradford

Carolyn Bridges

Rob Bruchman

Diana Dierks

Willie Dove

John Ewy

Amanda Grosserode

Dennis Hedke

Nancy Lusk

Charles Macheers

Marc Rhoades

Chuck Smith

Ed Trimmer



Governor Brownback and the Kansas Legislature are ramping up their attacks on the education community in the hopes that Kansans will “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.”

Yesterday Brownback announced $44.5 million in cuts to education ($28.3 million from K-12; $16.2 million from higher ed) to take effect in March. The cuts are needed thanks to the reckless income tax cuts passed at the Governor’s behest. Revenue continues to plummet and the promised “shot of adrenaline to the heart of the Kansas economy” has not materialized. Yet still, Brownback insists that his plan is working and he will “stay the course.”

The legislature is also considering changes to LOB state aid calculations that would reduce school funding by $39 million and they will be delaying capital outlay payments to schools to address a “cash flow” problem.

The cuts announced yesterday include a 1.5% across the board cut to K-12 schools (about $42 off of Base State Aid Per Pupil this year) and a 2% cut to higher education. Specified were cuts to each of the Regents 4-year institutions and an additional $4.5 million to be cut from community colleges and tech colleges.


But apparently part of the problem is that the KNEA is controlling school board elections. That’s why Sen. Mitch Holmes needed to introduce legislation moving school board elections to November. Said Holmes, “The teachers unions do not want to give up the majority they currently enjoy in low turnout, off-cycle elections,” (Read more here:

We suppose Holmes wants you to believe that teachers unions control the school boards and that’s why school spending goes up – you know, to cover the enormous salary increases being granted by the union-controlled school boards.

In reality, moving school board elections to November and making them partisan will simply result in turning local elections into the kind of election circus one sees with state and federal elections. Imagine the kind of mail you’ll be getting for school board candidates!


Another big part of the problem in Kansas today is apparently being caused by liberal elite college professors writing in our newspapers. Sen. Forrest Knox has introduced a bill to require that the Regents universities adopt policies prohibiting professors from identifying themselves as professors when writing editorials or op-eds. We wouldn’t want readers to know that the writer might be educated or knowledgeable on the topic of the editorial especially if that editorial might be critical of Governor Brownback or the Kansas Legislature.

There is speculation that this bill is directed at a group of Kansas professors writing as Insight Kansas. Included in Insight Kansas are political science professors like Burdett Loomis at KU and Chapman Rackaway at Fort Hays State. (Read more here:


And now we need to stop that piano! It seems that the Kansas City, Kansas School District purchased a grand piano for $48,000. The Governor cited this purchase in his press release announcing his education cuts. Brownback said the district should have hired a teacher instead.

Facts conveniently ignored by critics of the purchase:

  • The piano replaces one that is at least 40 years old.
  • The piano was for Sumner Academy, a nationally recognized high school that has an arts focus.
  • The piano is used to help students prepare for concerts and auditions when applying for prestigious post-secondary music programs.
  • Sumner Academy and the KCK Schools serve predominantly low-income students who would otherwise not have access to such an instrument.

But we should not be surprised. This is the Governor that made a name for himself early in his first term by ending the Kansas Arts Commission.

So, pay no attention to the “men” behind the curtain. The first string they pulled dismantled the state’s revenue stream. Now they’re dismantling state services, silencing dissent, and hiding behind straw pianos.

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